2018 Ottawa City Budget Process, Councillor Jan Harder
In the last month, the standing committees have focussed their meetings on budget proposals for 2018. The final Council meeting in December will see the City officially accept the budget proposals. It can be difficult understanding a city budget. Inevitably with a city as big as ours, it is hard to find money to pay for all the services we want and needs that we have. As always tough decisions have to be made. The city’s infrastructure is aging and needs to be fixed and/or replaced. Our winters, while sometimes beautiful, are a great burden on the city funds when trying to keep roads and sidewalks maintained for the safety of residents. Transportation is yet another huge cost, but a necessary investment to keep people mobile while simultaneously reducing the carbon foot print. The city is also responsible for the many social programs that help the most vulnerable of our society. All these programs and services have to be funded by the residential tax base, one which the City has successfully capped at a 2% increase.
Today I want to highlight a few of the programs and services that the Community and Protective Services Committee (CPSC) oversee. The CPSC “is responsible for creating and maintaining a safe and healthy community that promotes and supports quality of life, while encouraging resident involvement in the culture and life of their communities. The Committee is responsible for issues relating to housing, parks, recreation, cultural programming, heritage, long-term care, social services, and emergency and protective services” (www.ottawa.ca). That huge umbrella covers all the things that affect every resident of Ottawa from the young to the elderly.
A big portion of the money allocated to CPSC will be going towards parks, recreation and culture. A total of $21.4 million will help renew parks and buildings. The Nepean Sportsplex, a widely used sports and cultural facility, is on the list for a long needed renewal. Furthermore, several play structures will be replaced across the city making playgrounds a safer and more exciting place for our children.
CPSC has also allocated funds to hire 14 new paramedics and one additional emergency response vehicle. With our aging population, this is good news to help alleviate some of the pressures our paramedic services face and to reassure residents that priority is given to help them when help is most needed.
CPSC has also recommended that funding increase by $1 million for a total of $23.5 million towards non-profit agencies that provide vital services such as food programs, counselling and support services. The Committee recognizes that the number of vulnerable people are on the rise and it is through such social services that people can find the help they need to maintain a healthy, and safe lifestyle.
Child services will also receive an influx of funds from the Province and the Federal governments. The Provincial government has transformed the child and family programs into an integrated system of services and supports for children aged 0-6 and their parents and caregivers. As of January 1,2018 the City will be responsible for the planning, integration and management of Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres. The City has been given a transitional year to make the changes so as to have the least interruption in service as possible. The mandate calls for high-quality services for children and parents that enrich their learning and development. The end-result will be better and more available daycare and children’s programs across the city.
Finally, long-term care will also see more funds. The Committee recognizes the increased need for specialized services for the elderly. Better training and more resources need to be available to deal with an aging population and the difficulties in caring for patients suffering from dementia and other difficult illnesses.
On a final note, that the City is always open to feedback. These are your dollars and as a payer and user of the services that the City provides, you can always email your councillor or attend committee meetings and have your voice heard.